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Understanding sexual harassment in the workplace from a different angle A new fellowship for ACU members – the Martha Farrell Memorial Fellowship – provides members of staff at ACU member institutions with the training and support necessary to combat sexual harassment on campus. Here, Mohammad Mojibur Rahman – the first person to be awarded the fellowship since its launch last year – reports on his experience.

I

have been working at the University of Dhaka for more than 12 years as a teacher and seven more as a student. Over this long period, I have observed various unpleasant and embarrassing incidents within universities and in Bangladesh more widely. It is my view that every incident of sexual harassment is somehow connected to education, and that a greater understanding of the underlying causes is essential. In this journey to develop my insight, I was keen to receive professional training to help me find solutions. My ACU fellowship provided just that, beginning with a visit to the Martha Farrell Foundation in New Delhi, India, for a week of hands-on training. The foundation pioneers and supports practical interventions to promote gender equality – including training and awareness-raising in the prevention of sexual harassment. This was followed by further training online, which covered different aspects of sexual harassment and how to handle cases and complaints. I learned a lot from the training programme and the experts I met. However, what made it such a success for me was the partici-

patory learning approach, which ensured I was closely involved in the process from beginning to end. Surprisingly, living just beside India for these years, I was not aware that India had a separate legislative act to protect women against sexual harassment, and that their University Grants Commission (UGC) has developed specific policy guidelines and regulations for higher education institutions. I was able to become familiar with this legislation and meet with stakeholders at the UGC to understand these regulations better. Through visits to universities in India, key points were discussed and highlighted – the need for a rapid response and to guarantee confidentiality for those making complaints; the fact that both men and women may be victims of sexual harassment and can make complaints on this issue; and the need to consider the use of CCTV footage, as well as screenshots from WhatsApp, Viber, and text messages as evidence of harassment. We discussed the need for any policy I develop for my home institution to be in the local language and be geared to the Bangladeshi context. Other suggestions included the need for orientation programmes and for

centres for counselling and psychotherapy to be established, and for any policies to be a result of teamwork through a core committee. Through my fellowship, I have now developed a draft policy against sexual harassment for my institute, with the help of my colleagues, students, staff, and subject specialists. I am keen to develop one for the university as a whole, and hope to convince the chairman of the UGC in Bangladesh to develop such a policy for higher education institutions across the country. From the beginning to the end, this journey was a great lesson for me. Male staff and members of society have a duty to come forward to help combat sexual harassment and violence against women, and to get involved in the problem-solving process. If male and female staff work together, more gender balanced policies can be developed. ■

Mohammad Mojibur Rahman is Associate Professor at the Institute of Education and Research, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The Martha Farrell Memorial Fellowship provides members of staff at ACU member institutions with the hands-on training and support necessary to instigate an effective antisexual harassment initiative at their university. Dr Martha Farrell (1959-2015) was Director of the Gender Programme at Participatory Research in Asia, and campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights, gender equality, and adult education. In 2015, during a visit to Afghanistan to lead a gender training workshop, she was among 14 people killed in a Taliban attack. The Martha Farrell Foundation – which both hosts and co-funds the fellowship – was set up in her memory. To find out more, visit www.acu. ac.uk/titular-fellowships

Dr Martha Farrell

Profile for The Association of Commonwealth Universities

The Bulletin (no.191, August 2017  

The magazine of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) – the membership organisation and representative body for universities of...

The Bulletin (no.191, August 2017  

The magazine of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) – the membership organisation and representative body for universities of...

Profile for the_acu
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